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Port Stephens honours its dedicated residents

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Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer describes Citizen of the Year Brooke Roach as a “dedicated community leader”.

The Hunter River High School Aboriginal liaison officer picked up the top gong at a special civic ceremony at Riverside Park on Thursday 26 January.

He was one of the eight recipients to take home an award.

“We’ve recognised Brooke for his extensive contributions to the community,” Cr Palmer said.

“He’s passionate about sport and volunteers his time as both president and co-coach for the Raymond Terrace Magpies Rugby League Football Club and works with many organisations to introduce sport to people’s lives.

“On top of this, he advocates for better access to services for Aboriginal people across our whole community – and continues to inspire others.

“In full, he’s a Raymond Terrace legend.

“Brooke’s made a lasting impression through his passion to improve the wellbeing of people in Port Stephens, too.”

Others to shine include Darrell Dawson (Freeman of Port Stephens), Emma Newcombe (Young Citizen of the Year), Jodi Cassar (Sportsperson of the Year), Gabrielle Carrick (Cultural Endeavour) and Casey Freeman (Environmental Award).

Port Stephens Medals went to Heather Buckingham and Robert Bull as well.

Cr Palmer spoke highly of all the nominees.

“The Port Stephens annual awards acknowledge and celebrate the people in our community who go that little bit further and give that little bit extra,” he said.

“The nominees are all fantastic role models and leaders in the community.

“So, I’m proud to be able to recognise their contributions.

“These incredible people are nominated by their peers and rarely ask for recognition or thanks – they simply love our community and love what they do.

“That’s why it’s great to be able to show our appreciation for their contribution in making Port Stephens the incredible place that it is.

“On behalf of the councillors and the residents, thank you to all our nominees for all that you do for our community.”

2022 Port Stephens Annual Award recipients

Freeman of Port Stephens – Darrell Dawson

Mr Dawson has been prominent in protecting native wildlife and habitat for the benefit of the community.

Through his involvement in numerous committees, he’s remained instrumental in the development of some of the most iconic environmental features of Port Stephens.

This includes the protection of the Tomaree National Park and working towards protecting the waters of Port Stephens from pollution and large scale commercial aquaculture development.

He was also pivotal in the protection of the Mambo Wetlands and large areas of local Koala habitat.

Mr Dawson successfully established the grassroots organisation EcoNetwork Port Stephens Inc. in 1993, which now represents 30 affiliated community groups and businesses and boasts a membership of approximately 3000 individuals in Port Stephens.

This has all been done with the aim of bringing together the various active environmental and sustainability groups in the LGA, under one network.

Young Citizen of the Year – Emma Newcombe

Miss Newcombe is an outstanding student, contributing positively to the local community through a wide range of activities and volunteer work.

She’s been a driving force in the development of the Café Alesco, becoming an integral part of its operation and management.

Alesco aims to reduce barriers to accessing education, so students are able to engage and participate in education to the best of their abilities, while gently challenging their potential.

Miss Newcombe upholds its values, is respectful and always willing to help her teachers, peers, local community and encompasses the Alesco spirit in all she does.

Sportsperson of the Year — Jodi Cassar

Ms Cassar has been an active role model for netball in Port Stephens for more than three decades now and is the current president of Port Stephens association.

She spends many hours of her time ensuring that grassroots participation in the game is provided for girls and boys, young and old across the community.

Accessibility and inclusion is an important role of the spot that she promotes with all programs offered under Netball NSW, including Port Stephens Netball Association.

This includes the recently-introduced Inclusive Netball Uniforms policy introduced by Netball Australia and the growth in boys and men’s pathways.

She’s also helped to instigate the inclusion of Acknowledgement of Country prior to all meetings and at the start of each playing day.

Ms Cassar is a Life Member of Medowie Netball Club, as well as Port Stephens Netball Association, and was awarded the Netball NSW Dot McHugh OAM Administrators Award in late 2022 in recognition of the outstanding leadership and management of the administration of netball in the Port Stephens community.

Cultural Endeavour — Gabrielle Carrick

For the past two years, Ms Carrick has been the graphic designer for all Tomaree Museum Association (TMA) exhibitions and artistic presentations.

She leads the design exhibition team for TMA pop-up museums, such as D’albora Nelson Bay, Port Stephens Art Competition and the exhibition at the Nelson Bay Visitor Information Centre.

She’s volunteered her time and used her considerable expertise gained through a lifetime of work in the area to produce very professional results for the TMA and the Port Stephens community.

Her contribution and passion towards the preservation and promotion of Port Stephens cultural and artistic heritage is outstanding.

Environmental Award — Casey Freeman

Ms Freeman is a young mother to three girls and is a passionate koala carer, volunteering with the rescue team at Port Stephens Koala Hospital.

With her work, she actively contributes to the conservation of the Port Stephens koala population.

Not only is she an active volunteer, she’s passionate about making a difference in conservation and, with her daughters, she developed, manufactured and installed koala signage across the LGA to help drive the marsupial’s awareness.

These signs were recognised and supported across the LGA.

Ms Freeman is now working with council staff on a new program of koala awareness signage.

Port Stephens Medals

  • Heather Buckingham

For the past three decades, Ms Buckingham has played a major role at the St John’s Parish Pantry.

She’s a continual force, collecting donations and volunteering every week to provide food and kindness to needy families.

For most of her 30 years with the pantry, she’s also coordinated Christmas Hampers for those who can’t afford to buy gifts.

Ms Buckingham has dedicated decades of work to the local community including welcoming and supporting families by helping with employment and study, providing guidance with life in a new country, celebrating birthdays, including them in family Christmas celebrations and even attending school grandparent days.

  • Robert Bull

Mr Bull was a founding member of the Raymond Terrace Men’s shed in 2010 and has been president of the organisation nine times.

He’s now an active and lifetime member in Raymond Terrace and also a member of Australian Men’s Shed Association.

As initiator of the Raymond Terrace Men’s Shed band, he’s been responsible for the shed performing at many external public functions and nursing homes within the community.

He works closely with the Raymond Terrace RSL in planning Anzac Day ceremonies and instigated the men’s shed contributions at the Back to King Street Heritage Festival.

Mr Bull’s contribution to the Port Stephens community doesn’t end there.

He’s also a major contributor in providing meals at a local cafe for members of the community in need.

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